Successful sales in uncertain times

In times of Covid-19, sales is faced with particular challenges. In many industries, this is particularly evident in parallel supply and demand shocks, the elimination of entire channels or the complete switch to virtual working in the sales team. At the same time, as the central interface between supply and demand, sales plays one of the most critical functions for success during - but also after - this phase.

The current restrictions have two main implications: On the one hand, the short-term ability of companies to act must be maintained in order to counteract a possible downturn; on the other hand, the emerging momentum must be strategically utilised in the medium term in order to best prepare for the recovery. In addition to the classic 4-5 P's, we see the actual core levers for success in the areas of organisation, personnel and management.

Organisation

In order for sales teams - whether analogue or virtual - to work together optimally, close and regular coordination is required. In particular, the integration of interface functions and upstream and downstream departments has proven to be a success factor in our client work. By introducing an agile setup with corresponding coordination routines (sprint planning meetings, daily sync calls, review and retro), we have already been able to contribute to a considerable focus, improved prioritisation and thus a significantly increased completion rate on several occasions.

There is no question that all of this, combined with an equally strengthened team cohesion, is of enormous importance even in times of increased physical distance. Here too, our experience shows that with the right tools and a redesign of core processes, smooth workflows can be ensured and new opportunities opened up.

Personnel

Particularly in decentrally organised sales units, it is essential to bring individuals forward and teams together through targeted personnel development measures and thus make both (more) efficient. Our experience shows that investing in the sales skills of the team is increasingly paying off, starting with structured and well thought-out onboarding of new employees, through individual support via sales coaching, to general training and further education programmes.

The trend is moving away from broadband presence formats in the sense of "one-size-fits-all" towards more community-based solutions ("sales community") with a higher proportion of peer-to-peer learning formats and digital learning nuggets. Especially in times of potentially lower capacity utilisation or the switch to digital channels, the empowerment of sales teams becomes all the more significant - to prepare for the upturn and also to retain top talent in the longer term.

Guidance

Even in normal times, good leadership in sales always means both: being close to the team in order to prioritise well and allocate resources (especially in the back office) optimally, but also being present on the market and providing support at important customer appointments. Especially with a high density of appointments and physical distance, it can be difficult to find time for personal discussions with employees and to take on a stronger coaching role.

In our view, it is therefore all the more important to provide managers with opportunities for improved control and connection to the team through an appropriate setup on the one hand, and to empower them through targeted individual coaching on leadership topics on the other. Particularly in times of increased virtual leadership, we also recommend consciously planning routines that allow open dialogue between employees and managers and thus open up space to address personal issues. It also seems all the more important now to communicate a clear and transparent roadmap for the coming period in order to give the team security and orientation.

Even in normal times, sales push projects often bring short-term improvements of up to +25% in incoming orders. Especially in the restart phase, it will be even more important than usual to combine agile elements with consistent digitalisation in sales. We would be happy to discuss with you how you can profitably use the three core levers of organisation, personnel and leadership to optimally align your sales.

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Dr. Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen
Dr. Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen
Partner
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